If the patter of little feet is a familiar sound in your home, then the sight of pint-size clutter probably is, too. Rainbow drawings, aced tests, and miscellaneous school papers arrive home daily with the kids. And afternoons are an adventurous whirl of crayons, paints, books, and toys.
Messiness is a normal part of childhood. Most kids grow into neat — or at least neater — adults. But that doesn’t mean you have to give in to clutter until your kids head off to college. With these tips, it is possible to reduce your children’s clutter.
1. Set Some Ground Rules
Bring the kids together and let them know that new rules will be put into place to keep the house neater. Some rules to consider implementing: Toys must not block doorways; clean clothes that are tried on and rejected must be put back in a drawer and not the dirty-clothes hamper; everything must be picked up and put away before bed every night.
2. Reuse Old Furniture
Look around your home for furnishings that can be recycled to the kids’ rooms. A trunk or a footlocker can be used as a storage compartment for athletic gear or toys. As a precaution, disengage the lock and add a safety latch or other device that keeps the lid securely open.
A small dresser can be moved into a child’s bedroom or family room and be used as a storage center for the kids artwork. Art supplies can be placed atop a dresser in a tin pail and a basket can be added to hold fresh paper. Let the kids fill the drawers of the dresser with their daily creations. You can’t save every crayon drawing or finger painting, so pick the best effort each week, or weed out the drawers when they are full and stash the treasures away in a special box with the child’s name on it. You can also use the dresser drawers to store school photos, notes from the teacher, and any other special papers.
3. Create Unique Storage Spots
A simple mug rack — hung low in the child’s room — can serve as
a hitching post for miscellaneous possessions, such as belts, hats, necklaces, and gloves.
In the bathroom, a laundry lingerie bag or a corner organizer with holes that allow water to drain out will keep those rubber ducks, sailboats, and Barbies from taking over the tub.
4. A Basket in Every Room
Place a bin or a sturdy basket in each of the main rooms where your children play. Teach your kids to deposit their toys there when they move from one room to the next. Your nighttime cleanup ritual will be quicker and simpler as the kids will need to go to only one place in each room to retrieve the toys they’ve played with during the day.
5. Choose Covered Toy Boxes
If you’re in the market for a good-size stuff holder, steer clear of the uncovered toy boxes you’ll come across in many stores — they just collect dust in addition to an unsightly jumble of toys and books that eventually spills onto the floor. Choose clear plastic boxes with snap-on lids — they allow your children to see what’s inside. They also make great space maximizers, since most are stackable.
6. Use Kid Friendly Storage
Consider purchasing open-front stackable bins that will keep toys off the floor where they might cause someone to trip, yet let kids retrieve playthings without assistance. Stackable units are a blessing if your child has more toys than one bin can hold.
Tow toys that don’t get daily use in a large plastic box. Because kids can always keep an eye on the contents, they probably won’t protest. Stash boxes of second-string toys in the back of a closet or under a bed.
Consider an attractive toy chest to house frequently used toys. It can also be a sturdy seat for parents to sit on while helping kids get dressed in the morning. But make sure the chest has a lightweight or removable lid that won’t slam down and hurt a child.
Shallow wicker baskets — the kind adults use to sort mail — are equally efficient for storing toy soldiers, action figures, and stray dinosaurs. For added kid appeal, purchase baskets in bright, eye-popping colors.